Book Review: Upside Down

Upside Down (Off the Map #1)
Published By: Grand Central/Forever
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Page Count: 384
Buy it at Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Author
Audience: New Adult - Contemporary

After her sister, Paige, is killed in a car accident, Talia feels that something is missing in her life. Determined to do things her sister never got the chance to, Talia packs up her life in Santa Cruz and heads to Melbourne, Australia for six months as an exchange student. Free to be whoever she wants to be, and to escape the grief that surrounds her back home, Talia sets out to reinvent herself as the person she wants to be. But then she meets Bran, who can see through her act to the person she truly is. 

 Bran may seem like a cocky surf bum, but his gruff exterior is covering the heartbreak that still torments him. He doesn’t believe in love anymore, but there’s something about Talia that he can’t resist. Her time is limited, though. Can he bring himself to love again? And if so, can he convince Talia to stay? 

I was keen to read Upside Down when I saw that it was largely set in Australia, although I was worried about whether the portrayal would be accurate. I needn’t have worried. Lia Riley has obviously spent quite a bit of time in Melbourne, and despite my nit-picking nature, I only found a couple of very small gripes. I won’t share them, because if you’re not a Melbourne native, you won’t notice them. I loved the scenes set on the Great Ocean Road having spent quite a bit of time there myself, and having experienced more than one drunken beach party. 

 The novel’s absolute strength is the portrayal of Talia. She suffers from severe anxiety disorders, including OCD, and the depiction of this is spot on. It is not trivialised and doesn’t stray into stereotypes of frantic cleaning and hand washing. Talia is a flawed heroine, in the way that we are all flawed, and it is this that made her story so enjoyable to read. 

 Upside Down is a New Adult title, and as such there is a significant amount of swearing and quite a few steamy scenes. Recommended for ages 18+.

Twenty-one-year-old Natalia Stolfi is saying good-bye to the past-and turning her life upside down with a trip to the land down under. For the next six months, she'll act like a carefree exchange student, not a girl sinking under the weight of painful memories. Everything is going according to plan until she meets a brooding surfer with hypnotic green eyes and the troubling ability to see straight through her act.

Bran Lockhart is having the worst year on record. After the girl of his dreams turned into a nightmare, he moved back home to Melbourne to piece his life together. Yet no amount of disappointment could blind him to the pretty California girl who gets past all his defenses. He's never wanted anyone the way he wants Talia. But when Bran gets a stark reminder of why he stopped believing in love, he and Talia must decide if what they have is once in a lifetime . . . or if they were meant to live a world apart.